Tuesday, April 25, 2017

MY POEMS OF OMAN: My Love Was Made of Leather...and Updates on life in general

So I am back in the land-far-and-away for a Viking funeral. Weird, I know. Weirder for me. I am jet-lagged, grieving, and not hungry at all. I haven't cried really. When everyone else is crying I can't cry. Maybe when I get back to Oman I'll cry. Sometimes it takes me years. For now it is like I am floating, doing what needs to be done. I am supposed to be back in Oman, but since my work screwed up my visa, and the ROP put a valid visa stamp into my passport but not into the system originally, that made me miss my first flight and I had to catch a one-way out here, I still don't kow if I am allowed to come back on my first return fare. Waiting on that. Another stress factor I don't need.

I am trying to help manage get the estate (Omani's say heritage?) ready, because others are griveing (or are too drunk since everyone wants to finish off that heritage Scotch and vodka to manage or do a good job sorting). I gotta say, I have the most awesome cousins and my sister is doing better than I ever thought she would. And it is really weird, but since it has been such a long time that I've been away, and since then, a lot of older relatives have begun losing their memory just a bit, I am being treated like a ten-year-old girl. Which is so weird because even when I lived here my own father had no rules about how late I could stay out, he knew I could take care of myself, so that is so strange, that I am feeling more confined that I ever do in Oman. My Omani husband doesn't freak out if I go out by accident without telling him if it is to buy milk or something so it's odd... Anyways...

...So taking a break from all that, I met up with some old and good friends and we had coffee. Funny how everyone has to apolgize at first, because the first thing everyone does in the land-far-and-away is ask you if you want to go out for a drink.

So we go out for coffee and discuss our lives in different countries and find it weird that despite all the years and all the distance so many things are the same. We all finally managed to get into healthy relationships, and find work that suited our natures, and are starting to live our dreams, like travel, or family, or talents like politics, art, music, and writing. And wow, does my city now ever have a lot of male Saudi students. They pass by and do a double-take when they see a Canadian Muslim woman behind the cafe's glass window. That in itself, will never fail to annoy me. After coffee, we walk to the harbour, and the sun is shining, and everyone Canadian is enjoying the warmth, and I'm wrapped in solid wool shivering, clutching the coffee cup for warmth, alas.

Discussing relationships, we'd all come to a point in our lives where we put our feet down and said, 'this is what I deserve and I'm not taking any less', and to other people, if they didn't like it, then they could go, we'd be fine. Also, we determined we didn't trust people anymore. Not easily. Not very many people. I mean, once you are my friend, I love you forever. I am loyal forever. But if you screw with me, I don't give more than three chances. I just don't trust you again. And these days, I am suspicious of people who want to be new friends. I have to see their character exhibited by an external situation, to swear my loyalty to them in the first place.

Looking now at life, it is really odd, the people that wound up sticking by one, and the ones who slipped away. My friends asked me if I wrote poetry still, and I had to admit, I'd just gotten back into it. Below is a poem that I wrote about how my relationships have evolved, and it could go just the same for men as well, since there are an awful lot of women in this world as well, who are users and fairweather friends:

MY LOVE WAS MADE OF LEATHER

My love was made of leather
But his was made of sands that blow,
The love that wants, but what, it does not know.

The rare ration of love contained within me,
I bid him drink of it as if I'd had my fill,
So he could cross the plain and take the burning hill.

Canteen that I was, I gave him my talents and strength:
I choked on dust and drank stones,
And shrank content into a tent of skin and bones.

I would go without if he could just make it,
To whatever dream that he had, if we got there together
Through the parching winds, and blinding weather.

But his love was made of sand.
And I poured myself into the oblivion of his thirst-
But cracked, and dried, that well-skin burst.

My dreams for myself, like footsteps in the sand
Then shifted. And in his hesitation I found
The answer I was looking for, and came unbound.

If it weren't such a waste of water,

For the wasted years I would have cried,
Instead I went on walking, for my well of caring dried.

They call me cruel, for I left him alone there,
Lost in a desert of his own making, to change or die.
And I did not stop, or turn even to bid him “bye”.

A love that is made of leather
Is supple, and useful, and it even gleams with care!
But with over-use and neglect, it will show its wear.

To vain men and stupid girls, if you make woman but a canteen
To drink from, or a faithful rope to use, soon enough youll rue
The loss of a good woman, generous, unflinching and true.

If you would use, or allow the use of, the good faith of a first love
To bind her to some coward fool, as naught but a tie or a tether,
Take heed: but once in a girls life is her love made of leather.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

MY POEMS OF OMAN: Free-Climbing

FREE-CLIMBING

The earth and stones have quit my feet
And expectations and obligations I did not meet
Threaten to swallow me whole...
...While I never lied, or faked, or stole,
And I praise God I've lived, and loved,
And could die content if pursued, or shoved-
I cannot, now, for my own vain thrill, or prideful bet
Risk the point without clamp...harness...net.
We count, three seconds clear, the fall of stones,
And to miss is sure, the dash of brains, and end of bones.
Fear seems reasonable, despite all inspired speech,
For I cannot stretch, or see, or reach
And my hands are cramped and slipping
And without harness or caribeeners clipping
Him to the wickedly distant, impossibly downwards cable
There is no place on the rockface sure or stable
For my guide to tuck himself into and latch, if I should jump,
Not a crop of stone, a gambled root, or grassy clump.
For all that terror, still I think to myself, that should I perish
It would be to light like this, as if painted by Maxfield Parrish.
So while hanging there terribly suspended
I am accounting for my life as if already ended.
I prepare to fall clear and push away-
He'll only dislocate his arm to ruin if he tries to save the day
Or fall himself, if he should try to catch, if I should miss:
I'd rather jump, than share Death's kiss.
It was I unsatisfied. I did not want to drive to the ledge
And take photos like tourists. So he brought me to the edge.
We scaled together most of the canyon of the mountain of the sun
And now, more than ever, I am certain he is the one...
For apparently he thinks of me, most high, that I can fly!
So I spend all that my nerves and strength can buy,
And thank God I can yet afford the space of a body and a boulder,
And there we lie hysterically relieved, shoulder to shoulder,
Pressed between the cliff wall and resting before the open air
While the sun sinks and my guide laughs without care,
The two of us seeking the light of stars
Caring not for bruises, cuts and scrapes, and minor scars.
And he is not mad at me that I had no wings and not enough daring,
For being trapped, and my shaking hands, and silly, scaring.
I light a fire and he cooks a can of beans,
And against that boulder our entire existance leans,
While we sleep, or eat from off the edge of a dagger.
And for all my Western bravado, and failed swagger
He insists I could have made it with gear,
That all but a handful of men don't climb free without fear,
That no woman of his country he knows would even try,
That I know the rocks, and how to well, and when not to die.
With the baying of goats below we drink our coffee and wait
Until his friends come, lower the gear, and I can demonstrate,
Passing with ease the gnarled grey trees, and gerbera,
Ascending the ravine where it is lined with aloe vera,
Weary and chastened but taking the pegged cliff-face,
Struggling to detach the clips, and out of breath for keeping their pace.
---But I don't want them to call my husband a fool,
Or say no woman from our tribe should come as a rule,
Just because I am already jittery from the other day, and weary
But in safety, I am more than capable, let them say, if that bleary.
Then it is done, and I seek the shade of the car,
And my husband thanks them for their coming, even it's far.
People will call us fools, or crazy, maybe
But I don't want them to treat me like a little baby.
And while this trip to the mountain has made me feel smaller
My love for my husband has grown, because he sees me as taller
Than what I am or have been. And for all love may fade or change with time,
What marks it true, is that it makes you more, and sees you climb.
And loving is always a free-climb without any harness or safety, or clip
And it can make an awful mess of your life if you slip.
So while some people may be content to successfully fall in love,
My love lifts me up, he holds me firmly there, and sees me rise above.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Traditional Arabian Villages and Forts: Shorfat al Nakher and Husn Alfurs

On the road up to Jebel Shams, everybody knows, there's the ruins of an old village, a lot like Misfah Al Abriyeen and Al Hamra, but from the looks of it, older. It is often called "the ruins of Wadi Ghul" but it is actually called Shorfat al Nakhar. It is alternatively known as the Persian Castle, "Husn Alfurs". I doubt the Persians actually called it that, but I am sure the locals did.

Maybe Misfah Al Abriyeen in the time the Rogan watchtower was erected, was built around the same time, but I rather doubt Misfah Al Abriyeen was called Misfah Al Abriyeen then...Although no one really knows if a formal village existed in Misfah then or if the Persians killed everyone off there before the Al Abri tribe moved up from the old Wadi village down to settle Misfah. If so, then yes, the villages have similar time-frames. If not, this village seems older. Archaeologists say it was settled in 200 AD, before the Arabs came from Yemen with the breach of Yithrib dam, and some sources date the areas current architecture to 2,500 years ago, which was close to my guesses when discussing the architecture with my Omani husband. Still, I totally need to see more than one source confirming that to be sure.
Now, I totally intend to revise this post after I do some research on it, but the corner slab stones, and some of the defenses seem to pre-date gun powder style warfare so I am going with bows and arrows, from some of the slats I saw. Will change this if I am wrong, but this would make foundations dated from the mid 12th century (like 1130s-1150s) I believe? Again, don't take me at my word. What is sure, this village was properly abandoned by the 1960s.

So apparently whoever's fort this was, the locals finally overthrew them and hated the bloody fort so much they decided to totally destroy it rather than use it. Most captured forts in Oman were re-used by Omanis, but this one, locals say anyways, no.

Still, certain casements and the old walls remain, in ruins, the stones too big to easily re purpose I suppose, if locals are wrong, and Omanis decided just to dismantle the fort to build other structures instead in more peaceful times.

We saw some cool carvings on the massive doorway support stones (kind of unique), and the carved places that would be used to grind foodstuffs. Uniquely, since many are collapsed, I saw carved masonry joint stones, which I have not seen anywhere else in Oman (any other structures that would have used them have been restored by the Ministries so I dunno). Also, windows are unique, marking these windows as defensive.

Due to the climb the other day (see my previous post) I was a little exhausted to say the least, so we only stopped up here shortly. We did see a lot of expat tourists taking photos from across the road though;). It was a little warm making the five minute trek up the dry wadi bed to the village (entered into by a farm with a white gate and Ministry sign carved off and riddled with bullet holes, beside an old mosque, under which the falaj system runs). I think early morning or 4 in the afternoon would be a better time to explore the ruins than when we went. It was a little warm.
Next time I go I will be sure to explore more, and see the fort ruins itself of Husn Alfars (we stopped at the end of the most significant wall chunk in the village itself).

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Free-climbing at Jebel Shams: not recommended, but I had an adventure

[In case you didn't know, Jebel Shams is Arabic for "Mountain of the Sun" and Jebel Shams happens to be the 2nd largest canyon in the world. It is a 2.5 hour drive from Muscat.].

On the weekend I almost climbed one of the moderately-difficult-rated climbing tracks down into the Jebel Shams canyon. I have to say almost, because I didn't make it all the way down. You see, we went down free climbing. That means, without safety gear. 
I'm told, not a lot of Muslim women do this, even with safety gear, at least not in abaya and headscarf, but, to be honest, I have never found abaya and headscarf to stop me from anything. They might make one have to be more careful and skillful, but they don't limit what I can or cannot do. People do that, culture does that...not my clothes or my beliefs. 

Anyways, this trail really does just need one guide, and a safety harness with clips to make it safe, and then the Tourism Ministry's rating for it does correctly apply. However, without safety gear it is definitely very high-intermediate or expert, as there are places you can fall to your death, and no places (points) for foot or hand grips in the rocks if you are short (like  me). I was told, by Canyon Tours and Adventures, who I did have to ring up for help in the end, as I did need safety gear to get myself off the mountain, that they didn't know of any female climbers doing it free-climbing. Good to know. So don't be like me. Use safety gear. Don't be a loser.

My husband, however, favors free-climbing, and so that's what we "crazily" attempted. This is how it all started:

"Did I ever take you to Jebel Shams?" my Omani husband asked me. "No," I said. "Have you ever gone before?" he asked me. "No," I said, This surprised him. "Why?" he asked. "I never wanted to," I shrugged. "Why?" he insisted to know. "It's not the world's biggest canyon and all the tourists do it, take pictures and stuff. That doesn't interest me." "So would you like to go camping on the beach instead?" he asked me. "No!" I insisted. "That would be boring. I want to climb." 

So he did that for me. So I love him, because not many Omani husbands give their wives credit for everything their women might be capable of, or dream of doing.

....Because I was going with my husband....I didn't hire a tour or guide company

If you are going without knowing the way, I do recommend hiring a guide. The best guide companies will only take 2 climbers per guide if your climbing level is beginner-to-moderate. I recommend the local Omani company Canyon Adventures & Tours because they're good, and local. Their phone number is (968) 9941 2660  and their facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/CanyonAdventuresTours/ .

My husband knew the way, however, and remembered the trail as easy enough (he's taller than I am), saying it should only take 10-30 minutes maximum. 

As he knows my skill level, he really thought I could do it and knew how proud of myself I would be if I did manage to do it. Of course, he forgot I was shorter than him, which makes a world of difference with free climbing, since one has to take risky jumps to catch points. Going down on this specific trail there were two points that were high-level risk for me, both in the middle. 

However, I found the first two areas easy enough. I wasn't tired or using any real muscle strength.
It was exercise, but enjoyable still at my fitness and climbing skill level, which I'd say is beginner-towards moderate for climbing, intermediate for hiking.

Also, we went later in the day, starting the way down at 4:30 pm. It is better to go earlier, but since it would take 10-15 minutes ideally (times are for intermediate-expert free-climbers or lower-level climbers with safety gear). 

The light is more incredible at this time though. The backgrounds were like a Maxfield Parish painting.
I loved the aloe vera plants growing on the mountain side. Sorry, I didn't really take more photos, but in the rest areas of the climb down I did. I didn't take more photos because from then on I had no free hands or legs. I was well and truly climbing. (If I go again with safety gear I'll be able to stop and hang there to photograph the views and nature).

At the first of the two high-risk climbs spots (for me) I did find I could use all my arm strength to support myself to slide down on the metal cable to reach the peg footholds in the mountain, but I had my husband down below me to guide my feet, and a climbing glove to keep the sweat off the sliding hand. 
Without my husband's guidance I'd never know where to aim, and would likely just slide off into the abyss. It was a 4-5 second drop down from there. Also, if I didn't have the grip strength or had been too afraid, I also would have fallen. It was a dumb risk, but alhamdulilah, no issues. From there though, I knew it was a point of no return for me. I couldn't get back up for sure, as my husband would have to be behind me to get me the grips without safety gear, and me as lead climber, I would be too short to make the jump. Probably.

Probably is not a good thing in free climbing. 
Anyways, after that was another rest point, and I was laughing (normally) still.

Another easier stretch came up, and I did fine. I bruised my knee and took a risky jump, but it wasn't frightening because there was room for failure there. There was enough space to likely catch one's self before going off the mountain.

Then came another narrow rest area. We were almost down, and it was the last part of the climb. Unfortunately for me, next up was another high risk spot. 

I could feel from my first attempt that the first peg for a foothold was too far for me. So I went back up, and my husband and I discussed it. I couldn't go back up though without safety gear. It would be just as risky that way, so I decided to try to brave it, but admittedly, I knew I wasn't likely to succeed.

I went down, following my husband's lead, but the rock face was such that he couldn't be my foothold if I truly went for the only real point on the rock. I was just too short. So I was clinging there trying to logically work out a way to do it, but there was no logical way. There was only a high risk jump that had only two outcomes. There was....make the jump and laugh like a mad woman........or fall. 

It was a 3 second drop clear down.

I tried, I really did, hanging there with just two points, my hands, connecting, and my feet just hanging there out in the open air below. 

Like that, the world spins away, and then spins up. I'm not afraid of heights really, but I am quite adverse to the idea of falling. I'm scared of being broken and dashed, for sure. And I don't like the idea of maybe taking others with me, if they dumbly tried to catch me. They'd only dislocate their arm and not save me, or fall with me. There was no catching me from that fall, if I missed the point. 

"You can do this, I know you can," my husband was saying below me.

With safety gear, yes, yes I could, I know I could. But without, it wasn't worth the risk. I know what I can't do, and I couldn't do that. Probably not, anyways.

Probably not is even worse than probably, when free climbing, turns out.

"I'm going to die," I assured him. "I'm going to die, ya Allah," I said, making fervent dua I still had the strength to climb back up. So my husband was my point (he saves my life literally at this moment that means) to get me back up, and it takes all my arm strength to get back up. 

I almost didn't, but I did, and that was the last of me. Then I was done for the day. 

I was too shaken. I literally could not control my hands. So I was laughing, and angry, and all that mess that adrenaline makes one. {P.S if you scare easy, make sure someone packs some orange juice; Omanis think Pocari sweat and Snickers are best but they're not}.

My husband got me an apple, and he called Canyon Adventures and Tours, we assured them we were fine for the night, had water, and lots of firewood, and food. They agreed to come "rescue" us in the morning. They knew exactly where we were.
Then we got some firewood together and found a solid rock between us and the cliff's edge, and decided we'd sleep there, edged against that rock so we wouldn't just roll off in our sleep.

We had a fire. Cooked a can of beans that we ate with throwing knives for our spoons, and made qhahwa (Omani coffee). Watched the stars. 

The stars were beautiful. I saw five shooting stars in the space of an hour.
We decided it was the kind of adventure that only the two of us could understand the fun of. Being stuck on a cliff, sleeping under the open sky. We were fine, and happy then. So we slept. Got cold, Got the fire burning more again. Slept again. Funny how sleep out doors in open air is always better than sleep in a bed, how two-four hours is like sleeping 8 hours at home.

We watched the sun come up but didn't take photos because we had low battery.

Then in the morning around 8 a.m. the safety gear came down and we went up. 

I totally felt like a loser, but the guys from Canyon didn't make anything of it, and were super kind. Even I am dressed like a local women and local Omani ladies don't do the kind of stuff. They even carried water down for us. Usually they take groups of 15, 2 people per guide. 

With the safety gear, the climb was actually fun again for me, even as tired and strained as my muscles already were, and how jittery I was from the day before. 

I told my husband I do want to try it again. Not this week, not this month, but again one day, with safety gear. With safety gear it isn't hard for me, and for sure I could finish it.

One way or another, I'm thankful I did try it, because it meant I got to learn my limits (which were not my courage, fitness, common sense, or daring in the end) but my height, and upper body strength and conditioning. I'm still thankful my husband thinks I am the kind of woman who can do these things, even if he thinks I am taller than I am;).

Thursday, March 30, 2017

MY POEMS OF OMAN: To Muslim Lands

TO MUSLIM LANDS

What is hijrah?
There is no hijrah any more.
When even the Muslims
Define themselves by borders
And nations, and skin, and sects;
By tribe or by what you drive:
There is no hijrah...

Only a slow decay,
Rather than a sure breaking.

Still, I would rather be worn
Than broken and beaten,
Spat upon and cursed.
I don't know if I am coward
Or just of patience fled,
But I am tired of the lies
On which we Muslims are fed.
There is no Muslim country,
But ever to Allah belongs
Both the East and West.
Hush now, and I'll tell you a secret:
That world was never taken.

So in ease I pray and dress,
While some fool protests

For Shariah Law in a Non-Muslim
Majority country: for he is a fool.
He cannot even rule himself.
These are my so-called leaders, so I laugh...
For no vote had they from me.
Muslim lands have thin borders,
Difficult for mortal eyes to perceive.
Muslim lands are but as wide as our deeds
And as vast as the strength of our belief---
For the country of Islam is but the body
Of men who believe.

MY POEMS OF OMAN: Heaven is Under Her Feet

HEAVEN IS UNDER HER FEET

"Heaven is under your mother's feet!"
The shorta says to me,
"Just give it some time and be a good girl,
Say that you're sorry, you'll see."

Yes, I blew breath in her face,
That was a mistake, I yield.
But I fought off her steel knife with only
A wooden spoon for my shield,

And had her hands around my neck,
Squeezing 'till I saw the stars!
So I kicked and broke a couple ribs:
My old cradle, now my prison bars.

A mother is the darkest jail. You can't escape
Her even when you're out. Allah put care of you
To her, and see. That debt you cannot pay.
So if she needs, what you can, you must do.

So if she needs money I get it,
If she needs friends, I find those no doubt.
And if she were ever ill I would tend her
But beyond that, good Sirs, I am out.

Insanity is doing the same thing
Over and over, expecting different results.
And I am done with crazy.
Islam is not one of those  'suffering' cults.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MY POEMS OF OMAN: If not I?

IF NOT I---or "the advice my father gave me"

If not I then who to stand,
For other men, when the castle gates are falling?
I could say wait! For whence another fit
To answer boldly to those calling
Sure will come! I could say this not my place,
These are not my kin, nor these my halls;
Still we could walk safely out from underneath these smoking,
Blackened ramparts. No oath spoken galls
My conscience: for no folk of mine are these!
High-speech was never my speech. The trouble and pain
Is not worth the enemies-making that is sure to follow!
Yet if not I, then no man is noble says my brain,
And all oaths of men are hollow. A man
Who does not do just what he can
To ruin, or the world’s red ending come
For right; he is not a man.
So because I can, I will stand,
Between this night, and the hope of day.
So remember me in darkness, Daughter!
When hope of victory, or glory, there is not a ray:
A man without rare skill or great goodness in me
Who laughs at heroes, and young men who think themselves brave;
I am the blood of those of little reach and no reaching say
Before, as Kings and Queens, I burn my pagan ship for the grave.
Yet great things are only done by good men
And power corrupts those great.
You cannot always be strong; Instead, Sweet Child, be brave!
And if it is in you: do not be the one the one who waits!


A poem inspired,  not necessarily by Oman, but my father's advice when it comes to doing the right thing, even when he's worried about me over here in Oman, fighting for some lost cause, and making myself friends;). He is ever the one other people turn to, when they need someone to be strong beyond words. I'm good at words, but in my father, I see what true strength means. And I'll never forget the day it was a mob-to one-odds, and he stood up for those he didn't even necessarily like or agree with, but only because it was the right thing to do. He had a girl dressed in a princess dress behind him, and all the boys were hiding inside, leaving it to that one "old man".

"When the kid is bigger than you, you're allowed a stick," my father always told me.  "What about when there is more than one kid?" I asked my father. "Get a bigger stick," he told me.

...But when there was a whole sea of them, red faced and wanting to burn that house down, my father stood in the doorway, barring their entry, armed with just a stick. "So what do you do, when you can't possibly win?" I asked my father. "Go for the leader," he advised me of mobs. "The rest are usually cowards." "And if that doesn't work?" I wondered. "Act crazy," he told me simply with a shrug, prepared to fail, but not prepared to let stupid, angry, blind wrong pass him without a fight. "Crazy is scarier than a gun to your head sometimes." Those fighting words have as of yet, not let me down.

So with him for a father, is it no wonder, I can't just say nothing at times? Or let another do what I could?

MY POEMS OF OMAN: The Mountain Man

THE MOUNTAIN MAN

A man of the mountains, unyielding, unmoved,
Hard as red iron-stone to sharpen blades,
And tradition-bound to the hilt of your bones.

I cannot walk with surety that I shall be loved
In that green place between the mountains,
Clutching what crumbles, and tripping on stones.

You dutifully drink from the well-spring of stone,
Without fear of taint or sickness come,
Filling that flask, collecting the wood, lighting the fire.
We shelter from the sky, purple with rain
And the wind blows up from the wadi below,
And the echoes of our own footsteps urge us on higher.

Thunder warns that the rain in your country is deadly
But you make love to it all the same, such is the thirst 
Of the parched eyes of men; they are happily drowned. 

It is in you to climb, and your feet are wretchedly sure
While snagged on thorns the dress I've hitched is torn,
But alike in us is the hunger is to see what is up, around.

There is but one bird and a thousand caves,
Countless bends and canyons carved, with rushes
Lined, and always another horizon rising up.

Still, I fear to drink from the cup I do not know,
Or invite great hosts to swarm my halls, who would
Have me changed, a slave to them, to but sew and sup.

I cannot spend all my days talking these same subjects
Over in-houses. Like you I would climb and hike, and swim
In the impatient pools tickled by the pink wisps of flowers.
 There, I would be your happy wife for hours,
 A woman who laughs freely into the wind
And makes the screaming sky, the roof o'er her bower!

Would that you and I could but dwell up here in stone and mud,
No guests to come a'callin'. I would let you lead me to the sky:
Above myself, and beyond my eyes, 'tis the mountain man I'd follow.

...But go the trail of goats, and the tired ways of other men,
And to places often seen before, no matter how fair the view
Or pure the spring: it is not a drink I'm fool enough to ever swallow.

Friday, March 17, 2017

More Thoughts on Women's Rights in Oman After Reading Dhofari Gucci's Last Post

I just finished reading Dhofari Gucci's post on Women's Day, and women's rights in Oman. My Omani husband always says, "well, at least we don't live in Dhofar"... but then....I've seen major abuses of women's rights even in Muscat.

I saw one girl who was denied access to her own ID, and passport, by her father, and they live in Al Amerat in Muscat. She went to the police with this, because the law does support freedom of movement for Omani women. Nonetheless, the laws were not enforced, and no one gave the woman her ID. She was effectively imprisoned in her family home. I have never, ever heard from her, or seen her, again.

When I have visited the women's protection section of the courts, I saw incompetence (no follow-up by case-workers even in cases where violent abuse is a factor) and the attitude of "the family always wants what is best for a girl" prevailing. Case-workers also were racist.

Families don't always want what is best for a girl. Believe me.

My own mother once tried to stab me with a knife and the police told me "heaven is under her feet" so I should give it time, and try to make that relationship work.

If I had grown up as an Omani girl, where my family controlled my ID cards, I wonder if I would be able to move away and escape them? Would I be able to work and support myself? Would I be able to live by myself?

All the laws in Oman, support these things supposedly, but the enforcement of the laws then, is not there.

And there are some things in Oman a girl cannot do because of the lack of enforcement, because of her family.

I am sure my mother (not Muslim, not Omani) would have loved the ability to control what I studied, who I worked for, and to be able to choose who I married. I know for certain my own thoughts and best interests would never have even occurred to her. She would have used me to improve her lot in life, or to make herself look good to other people, and what I needed or wanted would not matter if it didn't do those things for her.

Even my father, bless him, for he has always wanted nothing but the best for me, would choose someone totally unsuitable for me. Someone who wouldn't beat me or abandon me, and who would be financially stable, those would be his goals, but that would sort of be my minimum for myself, and not really amount to my emotional happiness. He'd choose someone I could live well with, not necessarily love or be fully loved by. Not because he wouldn't want what is best for me, but because he simply doesn't know what is best for me. There's a reason  Islam gives a girl a yea or a "no, I don't think so", to every marriage, even if the law in Oman, really does not ask for her signature on her original  marriage contract, or even on notice-of-her-divorce papers.

That is something society in Oman needs to learn to accept. Not every family knows what is best for their girls. Not every family is the same. Your father might actually be great at picking out a husband for you, but that doesn't mean that mine is good at the same for me. And your mother might be the sweetest, most selfless soul that breathed, while another woman's mother would sell her daughter for a head of lettuce, or another might enjoy controlling more than loving (,ie see the Fairy-tale "Rapunzel" to get that lettuce reference).

As I apply to be Omani, I know I should apply for Canadian citizenship for my daughter. As an Omani girl, the law simply does not give her all the rights that she should have under Islam. So at the same time, my readers might wonder why it is okay for me to give up my Canadian citizenship to be Omani? Well, you see, I don't need a family or a tribe for anything, to fight for me. I can fight for myself, apply for things myself. Not every Omani woman, however, can, as long as she has a family with male Muslim relatives to hold her back. These men are supposed to protect her, but even they aim to do that, they may not always know what is best for her,

If there is no choice in something, there is no freedom to it.

This remains an important issue internationally, concerning hijab, the Muslim woman's headscarf.

There is no law in Oman that says you have to wear hijab, or in Islam that says one person can punish another for not wearing it. But try to not wear hijab in Oman (even non-Islamic hijab but hijab that your family or tribe think a girl or woman should wear, and see how free and Islamic hijab is in Oman). It is reduced from the beautiful, religiously significant symbol of freedom and belief that I wear---and fight to wear---for the sake of my belief in Islam, to a piece of cloth worn to hide, for a husband, or a father, or a tribe.

Like, for example, I remember this one time I got so mad at my husband I went outside to yell at him (he's a good guy despite everything I blog here about, really) and forgot to put on my headscarf/shayla...and he was so upset, like really mad at me. Not for being mad and yelling at him, which I'd respect if he had been mad about that, but he was mad about the state of my forgotten hijab.

[Note: I get really, really mad sometimes, leading to things I regret later, like hitting people, and like, forgetting to wear clothes. Being mad in Islam? Is bad. Guess that's why. But anyways]

I was like, "what are you mad about? I don't wear hijab for you! Did I wear it in Canada, to hide? To be what some man wanted me to be? No. So, if, like, you divorced me because I took off my scarf I would stop caring for you that instant. I wear my scarf for Allah. If I feel bad about what I did, I'll ask Allah to forgive me for it, it is not something I have to answer to you for. Of course, I feel bad about it, I should never be that stupidly angry from the first, so I ask Allah to forgive me. But I won't ask forgiveness of you, I won't care if you are mad.I am not a child. I should care for the sake of Allah, not any other human being."

So my husband, being the man that he is, then got it: Hijab is between a woman and Allah, and if she isn't wearing it for that reason, as her own choice, for her own reasons, then she isn't really wearing hijab---she's just wearing extra clothes.

Also, the neighbours everyone has trouble with in our 'hood? They were keeping everyone awake until 3 am. So, of course, I went outside and asked said neighbour to be quiet.

I barely stepped out of my yard. I was respectfully dressed. The street was filled with construction workers. We were not alone.

Still, this man tried to make my husband mad by saying to my husband: "I talked to your wife in the street at midnight."

My husband, at first, wanted me to see that my behaviour should be changed, but in the end, he realized, it is this mindset that needs to be changed.

Why can a woman not speak up for her own rights? Why must a man speak for her? Why is it shameful for a woman to speak publicly to a man of things she is allowed to speak about? Why is it shameful for her to go out of her home and be on her own street if she needs to do something, no matter the hour? Does a man have to do everything for a woman? And, if there is a man who can do something for a woman, and she still insists on doing it herself, is she shameful? Should a man be ashamed that this willful woman "belongs with him" "in his home" "under his roof?"

So it is the culture that made my husband feel "ashamed" he was not there to speak for me. As if being a useful human being who can do things for herself, was a shameful thing for his wife to be, as if it made him any less of a man....

Rather than it being "shameful" and "immature/backwards" for the neighbor to imply there was anything untowards in my sinless behavior.

Alhamdulilah, my Omani husband gets it. He forgets sometimes. Culture runs deeps. But he gets it. He sees which way is right, and which is backwards, mere tradition, tradition that shames, rather than tradition that builds.

So...until that sort of culture changes in Oman, then laws will continue to do naught but pay lip-service to the status of Omani women in Oman.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Random Thoughts About Life in Oman: how people park their cars and what they do with shopping carts

Generally, I can tell what kind of person someone is (Oman, Indian-expat, White-expat) by how one parks their car, and what they do with their shopping cart here.

Before I became friends with other women, I wish I could see ahead of time how they park their car, and what they do with their shopping cart/trolley after buying groceries.

PARKING THE CAR

My general observation is that drivers who steal other peoples' spots (where another car has been waiting for the spot) don't care to understand or put themselves into the shoes of others. I've yet to see a person who turns out to be contrary to this.

People who take up more than one spot, or don't notice the disabled sign, are not necessarily uncaring people, but careless, forgetful, and often arrive-late-for-things kind of people.

People who park behind another car, blocking them in, for more than five minutes. These people are always jackasses, swear, think the rules don't apply to them, that they're "special". I've never met a "nice" "good" person who did this. Ever.

There's those people who are okay with driving around for hours looking for a spot in the first three rows, even though they could park and walk a bit. They are usually inefficient people, or lazy. Not always but if they have to do this all the time, then yes.

I like the people who park far away and walk. Especially if they walk fast. They are usually the people who get stuff done. Without bothering others. Without asking questions. Independent thinkers.

WHAT PEOPLE DO WITH THEIR TROLLEYS

My general observation is that people who ask the 3rd world country worker in the store to push their trolley for them when they are not unhealthy, unreasonably burdened already, or disabled, are either privileged to the point of being spoiled, or ignorant of basic life concepts. Like, all the women I know who do this, think someone is poor if she can't afford 70 omr for a new abaya every month or new gold bangle.

And those are the nice girls. They are usually bad with money, sometimes naively sweet about politics and social issues, might have heart-of-gold, but no grounded concepts of how to do good. The bad ones? They are usually racist, prejudiced, and feel superior to others.

Then there's that person who leaves their cart in a parking space or touching another person's car. These people, again, usually don't care to understand or put themselves into the shoes of others.

And then there's the people who return the carts even across a blistering hot parkade. These people are usually thoughtful, kind, tip the 3rd store workers if they do get help. Maybe they don't return them all the way, but at least they get them off the road, in a place where it is easy for the cart collector-guys to get them.

Maybe I am over-psycho-analyzing the whole parking and trolley return habits of Omanis and better-paid expats in Oman, but generally, I've seen this in people I know over and over again.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

New Vogue Arabia cover released: I have high hopes

The new Vogue Arabia is about to be released. I am excited. I hope it is better than AD MiddleEast. With a genuine princess for editor-in-chief (and that Princess being Deena, who is superbly modern and yet modest) I personally have high hopes. And Gigi Hadid is very pretty, even if not my favourite "Arab" or "Arab model" but I am loving the "re-orienting perceptions" promise from the English cover.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Pretty Pinterest: What's Inspiring Me This Month

 Abayas in summer whites and coffee creams.
 This Rosie Assouline sun hat.
 13th century Iranian tiles and ceramics.
 15-18th century Portuguese tiles and likewise inspired prints.
 Navy blue abayaat and dresses.
 The "Timbuktu" linen print fabric.
 British Colonial desk top arrangements.
 Serving pineapple slices like this.
Valentino Couture Brocade Fabrics from the 2016 collection.
 Woven straw sandals.
And the Met. Museum vintage Christian Dior "Palmyre" couture dress piece, in its detail shots.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

FIGHTING WITH MY OMANI HUSBAND ABOUT HIJAB: so I wasn't going to force a 100-year old dead woman to observe it, is all

My Omani husband and I had a fight about hijab the other day. I wasn't going to force a 100-year old dead woman to observe it, is all.

You can't ask people in the West to support the right of Muslim women to wear hijab, if you don't do the same in the Middle East as well, for non Muslims, and of course, when those non Muslims are my sister and my grandmother (even if she's dead) well then, I'm going to fight for it, even if it seems a stupid thing to fight over.

Because it isn't. It is the start of larger prejudices, and we cut those at the quick.

So here is the story:

I have pictures, photographs, in my house, framed, of my family members. My little sister. My grandmothers. None of them are Muslim. None of them wear hijab.

So my husband is having over an old family friend.

I clean the house for said family friend. We even put away the oil portrait of my little sister since it shows (gasp, almost a flash or shadow or hint of her fake painted cleavage). ...Because like, she totally wouldn't wear that cocktail dress to walk around Mutrah or to visit my in-laws anyways, so whatevs. I carry giant large platters of meat and rice and kids nap routines are interrupted, and I have to eat rice for lunch which I actually don't like to do.

Normal stuff for guests.

But in the middle of this I realize my husband has put away the photograph of my dead grandmother. Only her ankles are showing in the picture. She is wearing a boxey World War II era suit and hat, and her hair is covered. Very modest. Modest enough to visit our village. Super respectful dress. If she wore such to Oman, Omanis wouldn't be offended by her.

So I ask him, why he put her picture away? [he doesn't believe pictures are haraam].

He says out of respect for the guy who won't understand why he (my husband) has a picture of his Muslim wife's relative with her hair out and ankles showing.

I get soooooo mad.

I tell my husband to tell the man the truth.

I don't care if people don't understand or like the truth, but the truth is what good, right, true people use.

The truth is, his wife has and had non-Muslim female family members who are not discriminated against by his wife (me) just because they don't wear hijab. If I have a photos of my grandfather and my father and uncles out, it is DAMN DISRESPECTFUL to hide the photos of my sister, my aunts, and my grandmothers. Islam doesn't tell non-Muslim what to wear, period. It doesn't tell us as Muslims to police them in anyway, or accord them respect  or lack-there-of based on their dress.

If my little sister is dressed too damn sexy for someone to see her in Oman (I can still advise against but it is her choice in the end), well, I won't hide her, or refuse to go out with her...Because she had people make fun of her because I chose to wear black abayas in our non-Muslim country. She even tried to dress like a Muslim woman so she could listen to our Mosque lectures on Fridays out of respect to try to understand my beliefs. No one gets the right to tell me to hide her or talk to her over here about her clothes. Allah didn't ask me to focus on non-Muslim people's bodies. He told us to speak to their hearts.

I have the same respect for her rights, which, my religion protects and respects as well.

If any man has a problem with what non-Muslim women wear they should do what the Qu'ran tells them to do, and that is, have respect, give dawah based on the oneness of Allah nothing else is important compared to that, and if that is beyond you, well then, lower your gaze.

Period.

I told my husband if he has any friends who can't respect these aspects about fair rights for non-Muslim women in Oman, they also don't respect what I am fighting for in terms of rights to wear hijab in my non-Muslim country, and I don't want them in my house, period, if I have to hide the people that make me who I am from them. Period.

Respect is a two way-street. Educating and giving dawah is a two-way street, and I feel a lot of Omanis need "dawah" on what and how they should deal with non-Muslims.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Applying for an Omani Passport: for spouses of Omani Nationals



For the non-Omanis married to Omanis to apply for an Omani passport you have to meet the following criteria:

1.) You should be married and residing in Oman for 10 years. Trips outside of the country cannot have been for periods longer than a couple of months a year without a reasonable excuse and legal documentation of such (like the illness of a parent).

And you have to submit the following documentation (always bring photocopies and the originals):

1.) Your permission documentation. ***Will add more on this section for those who obtained permission after being punished for marrying without permission at the end of this post***
2.) Your current passport .
3.) Photo-copy of the page in your passport with your visa on it.
4.) Letter from your home country that says that they have no legal objection to you obtaining an Omani passport.
5.) A criminal record check from the ROP (they may request one from your home country as well).
6.) Another piece of photo ID from your home country. If your home country (like mine) does not have national ID with photos beyond passport, a photo copy of your birth certificate may be notarized by your Embassy to be accepted.
7.) You exhibit sufficient fluency in Arabic. [This is the one that kind of sucks because there is no standardized test, and some people are interviewed, others are never tested].
8.) Standard passport size photos with white background.

That's what they officially ask for anyways.

***For those who married without permission but went to court and then received allowance to have every allowance of being married to an Omani but not permission, this is where the process sucks, because currently, there is no formalized one. The law basically says you have to "wait" until the Ministry of the Interior decides to give you permission to be able to apply to be on your husband's card (which legally, you can't work if you're on this family visa although I've never seen ROP or manpower be strict on this because they seem to hate the permission laws too).*** For those who do get permission after the fact, the passport application process may decide not to note the number of years you've been married, but will look at the timing from when you got the permission, even if it was 8 years after you've been married and residing in Oman etc., depends on who you get at the Ministry apparently.

Hope this helps some people, and doesn't disappoint anyone else.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

OMANI WEDDINGS: the melka day

Above is a photo of an Omani bride on what I assume is her melka (wedding contract signing) day. It is the actual "Islamic" or legal part of a Muslim or Omani wedding, but the "walimah" party for handing the bride over to the groom is usually the more celebrated by Omanis, and is the part of wedding services expats in Oman are more frequently invited to attend.

Below is a photo of the Omani groom.
On this day (or sometimes---more commonly these days---the occasion is celebrated on another additional day beforehand) the bride receives her dowry gold.
In terms of what to wear for these, in Oman I have been to both mixed and segregated melkas. I usually wear a super dressy abaya with a headscarf to be safe anyways, unless I know for sure women are separate, and then a dressy caftan or something similar is likewise a safe choice.

About gifts, if I know the bride, this is the best time to give her a gift. The walimah party is too hectic and impersonal to manage usually. If we are super close, that's the only time I give a gift, because otherwise I end up with people buying me dishes sets or chocolate trays when they visit me.

For photographs, as most of my friends (and if not them, then their husbands or families) object to having their photo taken, I find, if you ask, sometimes detail shots, like hands and feet are okay (and the room if decorated for sure is) to photograph. Also, maybe the bride can pose with an object blocking her face if culture says she shouldn't be photographed. Ask first, because some brides are okay either way, or are not okay no matter what.
 The whole point of the melka is to sign the marriage contract (pictured above).

The bride may wear Omani traditional dress, or another formal kind of dress (I've seen Omani brides choose Indian saris with hijabs, or sleeved coloured designer gowns like Eli Saab and Valentino with headscarves, but Omani dress is still more common).

At all the melkas I have been to there's rice and meat and snacks like sambusas afterwards, but not to the extent of the walimah buffet-type dinners in halls.

At that's about it. All photos by Abudisphotography taken from the Instagram account: [ https://www.instagram.com/abudisphotography/ ].